The Dearth of Left Handed Pitching In the Minors
On June 15th, the Pirates traded LHP Blake Taylor to the Mets as the Player To Be Named Later (PTBNL) in the Ike Davis deal. It was one day past the one year anniversary of his signing with the Pirates out of the 2013 draft, which is the minimum threshold until a drafted player can be traded.
In the short term, this is not a big deal. Taylor, although talented, is at least 4 to 5 years away from making the majors, if he makes it all. From the available videos, Taylor reminded me of what a high school version of Justin Wilson must have looked like — good velocity and size, poor control. There is no guarantee that Taylor will ever reach the majors.
However, in the bigger picture, this deal is a real problem for the Pirates. There are many areas of strength in the Pirates’ minor league system:
- Outfield — even with Polanco up, there are still plenty of intriguing prospects, topped by Austin Meadows and Harold Ramirez
- Right Handed Pitching — Taillon is injured, but he’ll be back next year. There’s also Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow, plus second tier guys like Adrian Sampson, Jason Creasy, and Buddy Borden
- Catcher — suddenly this has become a strength, with the emergence of Elias Diaz at AA, plus Tony Sanchez, Reese McGuire, and the recently drafted Taylor Gushue
But left handed pitching is a complete wasteland now. On my personal Top 30, only Joely Rodriguez and Cody Dickson are on there; both of them have had rough seasons to this point.
At Triple A Indianapolis, there are five lefties on the staff, but two are minor league veteran free agents (Jake Brigham and Adam Wilk) plus three relievers that all have had serious control issues in the past (Duke Welker, Andy Oliver, and Daniel Schlereth). None of them are players that would be considered potential key contributors.
On Double A Altoona’s roster, there are four lefties, one of whom is the aforementioned Joely Rodriguez. The others are 2009 draft pick Zack Dodson (scuffling around as a starter), Jhonathan Ramos (undersized as a starter, already 24 years old), and Yao-Hsun Yang, a 31-year old from Taiwan who is on this team for some reason unclear to me.
It’s not any brighter at High A Bradenton, with just three lefties on the roster. There’s undersized, junkballer Orlando Castro, plus two organizational arms in Thomas Harlan and Josh Smith, neither of who are destined to make it above Double A.
And finally, in terms of the full season teams, at Low A West Virginia there are just two lefties. One is Cody Dickson and the other is organizational arm Will Kendall.
To further make one’s head scratch, the Pirates did not appear to address the matter in the 2014 draft, either. They only drafted three left handed pitchers out of 40 rounds and to date have only signed one of them (John Sever).
In recent years, the Pirates pushed a lot of left handed pitchers through their system and are reaping the benefits of it right now. Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, and Jeff Locke are all recent graduates of the Pirates’ system. Pitchers Rudy Owens and Colton Cain were highly regarded during their time in Pittsburgh and were parts of the package to obtain LHP Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros. Both of them have stalled out with Houston, highlighting the need to have a lot of potential players to sift through.
The Pirates have many potential years of control left with Locke, Wilson, and Watson, so the need isn’t pressing for 2014. However, if something were to befall any of them, it would expose an organizational weakness that does not appear ready to fill potential voids.